The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is a regional body composed of seven countries from the greater horn of Africa region which meet regularly to discuss economic development issues. Nothing wrong with that. This year’s meeting, though, has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight because of a last minute decision to change venues from Nairobi, Kenya to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The move was made to accomodate Sudanese President Omar al Bashir.
Kenya, you see, is a member of the International Criminal Court and so is obligated to arrested wanted criminals within its jurisdiction. Ethiopia is not a member of the court, and has no such obligation. So if IGAD wants Bashir to attend, to Addis they must go.
The backstory here is that in July, Kenya invited Bashir to attend a ceremony for the Kenya’s new constitution. Kenya promptly came under heavy international criticism. The Court even referred the situation to the Security Council. This time around when the prosecutor learned of Bashir’s plan to attend the IGAD summit, he requested a ruling from ICC judges. Two days ago, the judges “renewed its request to the Republic of Kenya to take any necessary measure to ensure that the President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, in the event that he travels to Kenya, be arrested and surrendered to the Court.”
On the one hand, it is nice to see that a war criminal’s international travel is being increasingly circumscribed. On the other hand, you do feel bad for Kenya. There is some prestige in hosting these meetings and Kenya has certainly lost out by not holding the meeting in Nairobi. Countries should not be punished by their neighbors for signing onto international human rights covenants.